Posted: Mon December 2, 2013 9:46AM; Updated: Mon December 2, 2013 11:22AM
Matt Dollinger
Matt Dollinger>NBA POWER RANKINGS

Numbers don't lie: Pacers dominating competition

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Indiana Pacers
The Pacers' starting lineup is holding opponents to a stifling 86.5 points per 100 possessions this year.
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Indiana's numbers have been so good this season they look like a mistake.

The Pacers have thoroughly, masterfully and undeniably dominated the first fifth of the NBA regular season. Indiana improved to 16-1 with Sunday's victory over the Clippers, extending its best start in franchise history.

The top team in our rankings is led by the top five-man lineup in the NBA. The Pacers' starting five received plenty of praise last season, but its prowess this year deserves heaping mounds of credit. The lineup of George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert boasts a net rating of 18.6, which is more than twice as good as any other unit that's logged at least 200 minutes. Indiana's starting five is holding opponents to just 86.5 points per 100 possessions; the Pacers led the NBA in that category last season, too, at 96.6.

THOMSEN: Pacers have all the pieces to make unique title run

How have the Pacers done it? Individual improvement and even better team chemistry. Unlike other star-studded teams, Indiana is composed of role players who happen to be really, really good at their roles. Hibbert might be the best defensive center in the league. West plays the roles of enforcer and vocal leader to perfection. George, the team's star, might be the best two-way player in the league. Stephenson is blossoming into a breathtaking playmaker. And Hill remains the steady, reliable hand at point guard.

With that type of balance, it should come as no surprise that Indiana returns to No. 1 this week. The Nuggets (No. 8) and Wizards (No. 15) rise after strong weeks, while the 76ers (No. 28) approach rock bottom after sliding 11 spots.

Here's where all 30 teams stand in this week's SI.com Power Rankings.

(Note: All statistics and records through Dec. 1.)

NBA Power Rankings
 
1 Indiana Pacers
Last Week: 2
Since: 4-0
The scary part about the Pacers? "We can become a lot better," George said after the Pacers beat the Clippers. Indiana will find out if that's right with road games at Portland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City this week.
 
2 Miami Heat
Last Week: 3
Since: 4-0
Miami Heat (14-3)
The Heat continue to toy with the rest of the league. Miami beat Charlotte on Sunday after Chris Bosh hit a trio of three-pointers in 79 seconds. Miami's three losses have come by a combined six points. And LeBron James is averaging a career-low 15.5 shots per game even though he's shooting a career-best 59.8 percent. Mercy.
 
3 San Antonio Spurs
Last Week: 1
Since: 2-2
Coach Gregg Popovich doesn't lose too much sleep over regular-season losses, but it's worth pointing out that the Spurs' three defeats have come at the hands of the Trail Blazers, Thunder and Rockets.
 
4 Oklahoma City Thunder
Last Week: 4
Since: 3-0
All is well in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder are coming off a 6-0 homestand. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are dominating, Serge Ibaka is controlling the paint and even the young duo of Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb is contributing. If only there was something nice to say about Kendrick Perkins in that sentence.
 
5 Houston Rockets
Last Week: 7
Since: 4-0
Dwight Howard is playing like the Dwight Howard of old. Don't believe me? His 2013-14 statistics per 36 minutes (18.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 56.6 percent shooting) nearly mirror his career averages (18.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 57.7 percent).
 
6 Portland Trail Blazers
Last Week: 5
Since: 2-1
When is the rest of the NBA going to learn not to leave Wesley Matthews open? The sharpshooter is benefiting from teams keying in on LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, hitting a ridiculous 51 percent of his three-pointers and leading the league in true shooting percentage (70.5).
 
7 Los Angeles Clippers
Last Week: 6
Since: 2-1
The Clippers are going to miss J.J. Redick more than you think. In their first game without him, L.A.'s shooting guards combined to shoot 1-of-9 from three-point range. Look for Chris Paul, the league leader in assists, to shoulder more of the scoring burden in Redick's absence.
 
8 Denver Nuggets
Last Week: 14
Since: 4-0
Few things seemed more obvious than Brian Shaw's making a great NBA coach one day. After a rocky start, Shaw's Nuggets have won six straight and nine of 11. Not bad for a team playing without Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee and still learning to replace Andre Iguodala.
 
9 Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 9
Since: 2-2
The Warriors are going to have to shoot their way out of their funk. On Sunday, Golden State won for just the second time in seven games, thanks to Klay Thompson's 6-of-8 effort from three-point range and Stephen Curry's 36 points. Trouble is, that type of performance earned only a two-point win over the lowly Kings.
 
10 Dallas Mavericks
Last Week: 8
Since: 1-3
The Mavericks can't foul their way to respectable defense. Dallas has allowed the most free throws made and attempted in the league, while owning the No. 27 unit in defensive efficiency (104.8).
 
11 Phoenix Suns
Last Week: 11
Since: 2-2
Markieff and Marcus Morris are thriving after being reunited in Phoenix, with both averaging career bests in points, rebounds and minutes. It's too bad Eric Bledsoe doesn't have a twin brother.
 
12 Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 10
Since: 1-2
The Wolves are fun to watch, but they'd rather be boring and winning. Minnesota has lost to Oklahoma City, Indiana, Houston and Denver over its last five games, a telltale sign that the Wolves aren't up to snuff compared to the league's elite.
 
13 Memphis Grizzlies
Last Week: 12
Since: 1-2
Ed Davis has always been a tantalizing talent, but the Grizzlies need the fourth-year big man to be more than that with Marc Gasol out and Zach Randolph hobbled. Davis got his first start of the year Saturday and finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and no blocks in 29 minutes. Memphis will need even more than that to survive without the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
 
14 Los Angeles Lakers
Last Week: 21
Since: 2-2
The Lakers continue to play solid basketball in the absence of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. L.A. has gone 6-4 since Nov. 12, including narrow losses to the Grizzlies, Wizards and Trail Blazers. With Kobe potentially back as soon as Friday, Christmas could come early for the Buss family.
 
15 Washington Wizards
Last Week: 20
Since: 3-1
Despite the loss of Bradley Beal, the Wizards continue to trend upwards, winning three of four. Even without Beal, the Wizards have enough to be a playoff team in the East. With him, they should be one of the better teams in the conference, but that's more of a testament to the East's ineptitude than the Wizards' prowess.
 
16 Atlanta Hawks
Last Week: 13
Since: 1-3
Much like Jrue Holiday last season, Jeff Teague has taken his game to the next level (17.3 ppg, 8.1 apg) and could sneak onto the All-Star team. The point guard got his due from our own Rob Mahoney over the holiday weekend.
 
17 Charlotte Bobcats
Last Week: 15
Since: 1-3
Kemba Walker hasn't exactly been the model of efficiency this season. He's shooting just 37.6 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from three-point range despite leading his team in attempts. Worst of all, the Bobcats are 4-2 when he shoots 13 times or fewer.
 
18 New Orleans Pelicans
Last Week: 17
Since: 2-2
The basketball gods showed just how cruel they can be Sunday, taking Anthony Davis away from us indefinitely with a broken hand. The Pelicans' big man was dominating on both ends, averaging 18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and a league-leading 3.6 blocks.
 
19 Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 22
Since: 2-2
Andre Drummond put up a stat line (31 points, 19 rebounds and six steals) that the NBA hadn't seen in 23 years. But his free-throw shooting (32.1 percent) makes Dwight Howard look like Mark Price. Opposing teams have taken notice, unleashing Hack-A-Drummond to neutralize the Pistons' dominant big man.
 
20 Chicago Bulls
Last Week: 18
Since: 1-2
Talk about a rough road trip. The Bulls are coming off a nine-day trek that saw them lose five of six games and Derrick Rose for the season. Chicago has a four-game homestand to look forward to, but without Rose -- or an offensive savior off the bench -- little else.
 
21 Orlando Magic
Last Week: 23
Since: 2-1
Victor Oladipo has looked much more comfortable in a starting role, shooting 47.1 percent (compared to 38.9 percent off the bench), but he's still tied for the league lead in turnovers per game (4.0). Credit coach Jacque Vaughn and the rebuilding Magic for letting their lottery pick learn from his mistakes on the floor rather than on the bench.
 
22 Toronto Raptors
Last Week: 16
Since: 0-3
The 6-10 Raptors still, somehow, someway, lead the Atlantic Division. To give you an idea of how embarrassing that is: Every team in the Southeast and Southwest Divisions would at least be tied for first place if it were in the Atlantic.
 
23 Boston Celtics
Last Week: 24
Since: 2-2
Surprise, surprise: A Brad Stevens-coached team is overachieving. If you're not impressed with the Celtics' 7-12 record, take a look at this and tell me 7-12 isn't impressive.
 
24 Brooklyn Nets
Last Week: 27
Since: 2-2
Jason Kidd should use some of that creativity to patch up the Nets' defense, which ranks 29th in points allowed per possession and has caused the team to lose seven of nine.
 
25 Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 25
Since: 0-2
DeMarcus Cousins isn't going to get a lot of benefit of the doubt from officials due to his track record, so it's up to the blossoming fourth-year center to stay out of foul trouble. Fouls held Cousins to just 21 minutes against the Warriors on Sunday, but the Kings' star showed just how valuable he is in that cameo, scoring 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting. Cousins has been an absolute force this season, ranking in the top 11 in points (21.7), rebounds (10.1) and PER (25.5).
 
26 Cleveland Cavaliers
Last Week: 26
Since: 1-2
LaRue Martin averaged 4.4 points in 1972-73, the lowest mark for a No. 1 pick who played at least 70 games. For those scoring at home, Anthony Bennett is averaging 2.2 points on 22.4 percent shooting.
 
27 Utah Jazz
Last Week: 30
Since: 2-1
Utah Jazz (3-15)
Trey Burke gave the field a head start, but he's gaining quickly in a winnable Rookie of the Year race. A newcomer to Utah's starting lineup, Burke led the Jazz to their best stretch of the season last week. Utah won two of three games, and Burke averaged 15.6 points and hit 7-of-15 threes.
 
28 Philadelphia 76ers
Last Week: 19
Since: 0-3
Maybe the Sixers are who we thought they were. The early-November sweethearts have lost eight of nine, mostly because of their porous defense, which opponents are treating like folding chairs on a nightly basis.
 
29 New York Knicks
Last Week: 28
Since: 0-3
This would seem like a good time to mention that the Knicks already traded their 2014 first-round pick, as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade. New York has lost nine straight -- its longest skid in seven years -- and appears to have no hope in sight.
 
30 Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 29
Since: 0-4
The Bucks are 2-0 against the Celtics and 1-13 against everyone else. Good news for Milwaukee: It faces Boston on Tuesday.
 
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